Jack Sholder is not whatcha call an A-list director. But if you run into the guy, buy him a beer, because he made a great little flick called The Hidden (1987, 98 minutes). He also did some OTHER movies that it might be best not to bring up. He directed Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street: Numero Two-o (the one with the pie-zest parakeet.) Hold on, there's more. He was also one of the first, out of about 800 Hollywood directors, who tried to salvage Supernova -- or at least make it passable as an Air Libya in-flight movie. But even ol' Frankie Coppola couldn't work a miracle on that 60-million-dollar turkey.
The movie: There's this space-alien parasite that likes to wiggle down folks' gullets and make them listen to cheese-ball '80s rock music, drive really expensive sports cars way too fast and blast away at anything that even BREATHES in their direction. The picture opens with one of these meat puppets holding up a bank, followed by a 5-minute high-speed chase involving a black Ferrari and half the El Lay police force. Police detective Tom Beck (Michael Nouri, who CineSchlockers will remember from Anna Nicole Smith's To the Limit) thinks he's seen the last of his perp, but the killing spree continues when the space alien upchucks itself from its mangled host into another poor sap. The needle on my Vomit Meter spiked during THAT scene. It's our only clear look at the slime monster and that's plenty. The second, and best, host is played by the comically lurchy William Boyett (as cardiac patient Jonathan Miller). Surely Bill's performance somewhat inspired Vincent D'Onofrio (as Edgar) in Men In Black. That's also about the time "Twin Peaks" weirdo Kyle MacLachlan (as Lloyd Gallagher) shows up and starts flashing his FBI badge around and asking Beck a mess of questions. They cruise around in Gallagher's Porsche, running down leads. But the creature stays one step ahead by hopping from one host to another. Only, Beck hasn't figured out what the heck is going on and Gallagher -- who has no affiliation with the Sledge-O-Matic -- is in no hurry to tell him. That's fine, because the no-nonsense cop wouldn't believe his story anyway. After a while, the picture sorta turns into a sci-fi version of The Fugitive, only there's no one-armed man. The director interjects some emotional character development in between the gun battles, which I didn't mind too much. What's cruel is that halfway through the movie, there's a miraculous scene at a strip club where ... ALL THE GALS HAVE THEIR CLOTHES ON. Despite that, what's more amazing, is that the place is packed to the gills with horny business types. Oh well, "Babylon 5" star Claudia Christian portrays exotic dancer Brenda Lee Van Buren pretty goldang convincingly even with her clothes ON. The space alien also knows a good thing when it sees it and pops inside her. What follows is another high-octane car chase, a side trip through a mannequin factory and some great footage of Ms. Christian showing off her HUGE guns. She's great and so is the rest of the flick, especially the fireball finale. The sucker must have made money because someone sprung for The Hidden 2 in 1993 -- set 15 years later, with Detective Beck's all-grown-up yard monster now on gooey-alien patrol.
Notables: No breasts. More than 26 corpses. Multiple gun battles. Defibrillator fu. Shoplifting. Club to the brainpan. Coke snorting. Statue fondling. Pole dancing. Diddling in green Cadillac. Gratuitous mannequins. Bimbo belly flop. Raygun blasts. Space-alien CPR. Bazooka blasts. Flamethrowing. Gunshot directly to crotch. One hellacious car chase with wheelchair launching.
Quotables: Detective Willis (Ed O'Ross) snarls at the weenie doctor caring for his bullet-riddled and charbroiled prisoner, "He killed 12 people, wounded 23 more, stole six cars, most of them Ferraris, robbed eight banks, six supermarkets, four jewelry stores and a candy shop. Six of the ones he killed, he carved up with a butcher knife -- two of them were kids. He did all of that in two weeks. If anybody deserves to go that way, it sure in the hell was him!"
Time codes: Wide-open Ferrari pursuit with heart breaking crash and burn (3:00). Space insect gross-out scene (13:00). Jonathan Miller doesn't believe in sunshine (32:15). Faint outline of Claudia's stunt breasts (42:40). The bimbo-in-a-Cadillac chase (51:29). Gallagher and Beck's amusing "cover me" exchange (54:20). Always be careful where you point your raygun (1:12:15). How a flamethrower can brighten those boring campaign speeches (1:27:15).
Audio/Video: Features both full and widescreen (1.85:1) formats. A brand new Dolby 5.1 audio track, in addition to the original mono.
Extras: Fairly insightful commentary by director Jack Sholder (and Tim Hunter, but he doesn't say much). Giggle as they probe much too deeply into the film's subtext during the final credits. There's also some interesting special effects footage. However, makeup guy Kevin Yagher (of the Chucky films) should have done the narration, as Jack doesn't know squat about what he's shown. The original trailer, plus three others scattered among the cast bios.
Final thought: Would make a respectable double feature with the immortal They Live. It'd rate higher if Claudia actually STRIPPED during her show at the Harem Room. Still, definitely a keeper. Recommended.
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G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.